Newhall Residents Raise Awareness For Muscular Dystrophy Through Pilgrimage
“Before 50 you should have no fear. After 50 you should have no regrets,” one fellow pilgrim said to Faith and Frank Montana as they walked 100 kilometers through northwestern Spain.
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This commitment to live life to the fullest, despite physical difficulties is what kept the Newhall residents going on their 8-day trek to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy. They finished on Oct. 11
Faith Montana wanted to make the pilgrimage in honor of her mother, Barbara Beckham, who passed away after living with oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, which primarily affects the eyes and esophagus, but eventually leads to general muscle weakness and disability, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Knowing that parents with muscular dystrophy has a 50 percent chance of passing it on to their children, Faith Montana had herself tested. The test came back positive.
The Montanas first heard about the pilgrimage through “The Tidings” magazine, distributed by St. Clare of Assisi on Camp Plenty Road, where they attend.
Also known as the Way of St. James, the walk is a practice that dates back to the to the Middle Ages. The relics of the Apostle James are reported to be buried at that cathedral that ends the walk.
Some pilgrims walk upwards of 500 miles from their hometowns all over Europe, taking weeks to reach their destination. It is seen as a time of spiritual and personal reflection, and everyone takes the walk for different reasons.
Frank and Faith Montana took 7 and a half days to complete their 100 kilometers, focusing on the experience, instead of primarily on physical fitness.
Still, Faith Montana saw it as a personal victory.
“I learned I could do more than I thought I could,” she said.
As they met with other pilgrims on the way, Faith Montana was eager to share her reason for coming.
“I carried a picture of my mother holding me on her hip,” she said. “My mother carried me all of my life. She was very strong.”
The journey also gave them the chance to raise money for the Los Angeles chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Through a donation page set up by the MDA, family and friends have helped them raise more than $1,400. The page will be open for donations until Nov. 29, Barbara Beckham’s birthday.
After completing the Way of St. James, each pilgrim receives a special certificate.
The Montanas also brought home a scallop shell, symbolizing the many roads that all lead to the Santiago de Compostela.
They are now looking for other places to walk in the United States, including possibly the Appalachian Trail.
Their drive reflects Beckham’s attitude about life.
“You can’t whine. You can’t cry. You can’t stop,” Faith Montana said. “You’ve got to keep going.”
To learn more about the Muscular Dystrophy Association, click here.
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